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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What the heck is a Zibaldone?

What is a zibaldone book?

Have you ever heard of a zibaldone?  Me neither, but it turns out I've been keeping them for most of my life.

A zibaldone, also sometimes called a commons book, is a notebook where you note down this or that happening of the day, thoughts, ideas, things you need to remember - or want to remember.  You might tuck or even glue or tape pictures, receipts, articles into it.  If you are inclined to sketching, you might use it to make a quick sketch.  Zibaldones were quite common 600 years or so ago.  Everyone from H.P. Lovecraft to Thomas Jefferson kept one. Including me - although I didn't know it until a few days ago.

I learned to read before I entered school. I think I got my love of reading the newspaper sitting at my stepfathers feet while he tossed each section down to me when he was done.

My life was pretty bleak at the time.  I was a sex toy dolly for my step-father from the time I was two years old.  He hurt me, but also handed out a weird sort of affection.  The person I was really scared of was my mother, who actively aided and abetted his abuse - having basically traded me for the lifestyle in which she felt she ought to be kept. She was a sociopath, and a pretty horrible, scary human being. I was actively looking for a way to kill myself when I was preschool. What held me up was being afraid of failing, and ending up disabled and under their power for life. At least I had some hope that someday I'd get away.

So anyway, don't ask me why, don't ask me how I got the idea because I don't know - but I started keeping notebooks - my favorite were the big fat five subject spiral notebooks.  I filled them with cartoons clipped out of the newspaper. Articles, jokes, anything that was funny and made me smile.  Photos of horses clipped out of magazines filled another enormous loose-leaf notebook, neatly organized into sections for breeds and events and articles about Arabian bloodlines and so on.  I remember well one of the notebooks that had a three page list in the back of all the things I wanted to do some day.  Decades before anyone ever heard of a bucket list.

I also wrote down bird sightings, or anything that happened that made me happy or intrigued or that I wanted to research later.  Yeah, I'm a nerd! Once in a while I wrote down a rant about something that upset me or made me angry or outraged my sense of justice.  And once in a great while I wrote out something personal - although in time I learned better than that.

I was keeping a zibaldone even though I had never heard of one.  I'm glad I have a word for them, now.  I've called them diaries, which isn't strictly true, or journals, again, not quite right but closer, scrapbooks - not right either.  So, now I have a word for them.

At one point in time I had a big box with every one of those big fat spiral notebooks I had ever filled. Literally twenty years worth of zibaldones.

Early on my mother had learned of them and started reading them.  She had no compunction about tearing my room apart while I was at school to find my current notebook, read it, and then launch into me when I got home about every single thing in it, what a liar I was, how stupid, ugly, ridiculous, and how I'd never have anything, or be anything, or be anyone, that kind of stuff.

So I started writing backwards with my left hand when I was recording anything from my real life or ranting about the latest abusive episode.  When I added turning the book from top to bottom every other page and my own numbering system (based on how many years, months and days until I turned 18 and escaped) as well as my penchant then and now for pens of colored inks such as pink or purple or neon green she finally gave up reading them. I was already writing fiction by then (making up stories she called it) and so she told me it didn't matter anyway because no one would ever believe anything I said since she had made sure everyone knew what a liar I was.  (Being told I'm lying is still a massive trigger for me - don't do it.  But then again, I'm also scrupulously honest).

When I got married and moved out I continued keeping my journals, and went back to writing normally.  My husband occasionally found them and read them, but he didn't hunt them down so outside of some teasing they were pretty safe most of the time.  Good thing, since I ranted about his abuse until someone finally made me realize it was abuse, not my failure to be perfect for him. I do remember one big fight about something he found in them, which caused me to have a little bonfire in the kitchen with the most recent notebook, but I tore out and saved many pages full of the happy, fun things and only disposed of what I thought he could use against me.

That big box full of notebooks followed me when I left that asshole and I literally sat down and read them through, first to last, during the first few months of my freedom.  I remembered who I was, and who I wanted to be, and couldn't believe who I had become instead.  I set about making that right.

I was also introduced at the time to astrology.  I took Linda Goodmans' Sun Signs and went through twenty years of journals, describing in one word or a short phrase my approximate mood or what was going on for all the dates I had entries for.  I then sat down with an ephemeris and the astrology books and compared what they said I would be experiencing while the moon was in that sign and what I was feeling when the moon was in that sign.  And was won over by astrology through sheer accuracy.  That's why there is always a calendar of the moon's signs handy and I do live by it, set appointments and make plans by it.  It works for me.

Those books were still around when I met my second husband, the amazing man I am with now.  Because he's a good man, he's never had a peek, never wanted one.  But shortly after we married a traveling mishap caused me to lose them all.  We did a lot of traveling, and I had become wary of writing down a personal journal, although I still had notebooks of "cool stuff" - entire boxes full of stuff, I dragged along for years. I still have some, but a number of them succumbed to a damp basement in Nebraska.

And then I was dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age.  My hard drives - especially things like the documents and pictures folders, are a nightmare of saved articles, jokes, story ideas, and pretty pictures.  And there are still spiral notebooks floating around, too.  Now they are full of ideas, budgets, bills paid, notes, grocery lists, to do lists and in the last couple of years, in spite of arthritis in my hands, I've started doing more of my writing in plain old fashioned cheap spiral notebooks again.  I learned my lesson about keeping diaries, but I still write down special events and things that happen - usually in a word document.  I filled two spiral notebooks while James was in the hospital last year with pages of his vitals, every doctors opinion, drugs, dosages, effects, and all the other details.  The malpractice lawyers told me they were useless, as did the patient advocates and Medicare investigators but I still have them anyway.  Someday I'll either burn them or go through and make a story out of it. Probably not any time soon. I have some sketch books that I've hauled around for years, too, and they have as many bird field notes and events, dates, and ideas as they do sketches.

So now I have a word for it.  And it's such a good word, I think I am actually going to change the name of this blog from Eclectic Accumulations, to Foovay's Zibaldone because - well, I think it will suit better.  Seldom do I write enough on one subject in the blog for a collection, after all.

Speaking of blogs, I got a notice the other day that my WordPress blog, Foovay's Cauldron,, is five years old.  Not that I've used it much.  The last five years have been a time of a lot of fits and starts and changes of direction.  But I do think I'll start giving it a nice entry now and then, if only because I have some WordPress blogs I follow and sometimes comment on - and WordPress pretty much forces me to sign in with their system.  If those folks try to follow back and read my blog - well, there should be a blog there.  And I've just started blogging on nimue.com.  I like their format, and I think it will be a good place where I can share a photo, an essay, a bird or wildlife sighting, without trying to keep a blog going on each specialized subject like I used to do.

I don't have just one zibaldone book, I have a dozen - here at home in spiral notebooks and sketchbooks and files on the computer, and online in this blog, that blog,and the other site.  What can I tell ya - that's just the way I am.

Pinball machine for a brain.

Blessedbe

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